Hear from some of the members across our network of Work Hubs and learn what they think makes Devon Work Hubs such a great choice for their workspace.
REDS Group is a relatively young south west based company that has experienced exceptional growth in its first five years – but it has remained true to its roots.
Those roots stem partly from the Tavistock Enterprise Hub, which was one of two hot desk locations used by the business when it was founded in 2017 with just four engineers.
Today, REDS Group has expanded to a point where it now has five of its own offices nationwide, including its head office near Uffculme, and around 50 staff to offer a range of engineering and environmental services. This includes the maintenance, inspection and management of fuel and hazardous material storage facilities, emergency incident spill response, environmental risk assessments, as well as storage tank decommissioning, land remediation and civil construction work.
Despite branching out across the country, the Tavistock Enterprise Hub still plays an important role for Shane Stanley, Associate Director for Major Projects at REDS Group.
He says: “At that early stage of the business we didn’t need the overheads of offices and workshops. We just paid monthly for hot desking.
In five years we’ve more than doubled where we thought we were going to be in the marketplace. We’re now one of the top leaders of our industry, and it all started from work hubs like Tavistock.
My key office is working from the Tavistock Enterprise Hub. It’s just a few miles from home but it’s quite central to all of the south west locations I tend to deal with.
It’s very flexible, I can come and go in the office whenever I please and my work life balance is massively increased by working from the hub. I have more time with my family and more time to focus on work without the added stress of driving to get to work.
I still do a lot of travelling and visit all of our offices all over the country but it’s great to know that everything I need to do, apart from site visits, I can do from the hub in Tavistock.”
The Tavistock Enterprise Hub, which is a member of the Devon Work Hubs network, celebrated its 10th anniversary in December. It provides hot desks, meeting rooms and affordable office space on flexible lease terms, hosting a variety of businesses.
Rhiannon Spurgeon, Tavistock Enterprise Hub Manager, says: “Part of what The Hub is about is bridging the gap between working at your kitchen table or spare room and taking on a five-year commercial lease because that gap is huge. The hub allows you to try working outside the home without the huge commitment, so it allows you to have an office without having to wrangle with broadband or worrying about your own furniture.
We could not be more delighted by the REDS Group success story. When Shane was first here using a hot desk, his infectious enthusiasm was also hugely beneficial for other small business owners starting out.
Setting up a new business is tough, but when you have somebody else doing it on the next desk, it gets easier. Watching our businesses flourish is what keeps us going through the more challenging times.
The variety of businesses that have been here over the years has been phenomenal and a lot of them have ended up working on projects together, largely due to the brainstorming that happens in the kitchen area! There’s a real sense of community here and there are a lot of skills in the building.”
The Tribe Work Hub in Totnes has provided freelance photographer and writer Claire Gillo with vital contacts for her business, but she says the community and friendship she has found there is equally important.
Claire gained a vast amount of experience from her career in publishing, taking photos and writing articles for photography magazines.
On returning to her native Devon four years ago, she took the decision to set up her own business but after a while found a downside to freelancing.
“I was finding working from home a bit repetitive and a bit lonely at times,” admits Claire.
“I’m a very social person, I like chatting to people, so when I heard of The Tribe I thought that would be a good place to write my articles, and it would help me get out of the house and meet other people.
I didn’t expect to find so many people with such amazing businesses. It’s really inspiring to meet people who are doing lots of different things, from designers to writers, and you’re able to draw upon their skills and expertise.
My business relies on meeting people who need help with their branding for their business, so the more networking I do the better.
But The Tribe isn’t just about making business connections. Some of the people I’ve met here have become friends, so it’s good for my mental wellbeing as well.”
While there are many positive aspects to working from home, concerns over mental wellbeing and loneliness among remote workers have been reported by studies including that of the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen).
It’s a point not lost on Stacey Sheppard, the Founder of The Tribe coworking space, as she had been working from home herself for a couple of years before setting up the Work Hub in 2020.
Stacey recalls: “I realised how isolating and lonely it can be to work from home all of the time, and I spoke to other women in the area who were feeling the same.
When I decided to set up the Work Hub a large part of what I wanted to do was to create a network for all those women who were at home working alone.
It’s absolutely amazing having someone like Claire as part of our community because photography is such an important part of running a business and I don’t think most people realise that. It’s vital for things like your marketing, PR opportunities, your website – there are so many things you need good photography for.
Anytime someone needs photographs I can signpost them to Claire as the perfect person to help them and having that trusted connection that has proven themselves time and time again with other members of the community is really valuable for all of us.”
Claire feels she has benefited from being part of community at The Tribe and her advice to anyone who may be looking to use a Work Hub as part of flexible working is simple:
“If you’re looking to go to a coworking space, definitely do it. It can really open doors for you.
Once I’ve done a photoshoot for somebody it’s easier to get another one, but establishing those connections is crucial.
The more networking I can do the better for my business. That’s why coworking spaces are so important and coming here has definitely been key to my success as a photographer.
Once you’re here you’ll realise everyone is actually in the same boat as you are, and when you start talking to people it just opens up your network and your world and it can really help your business.
Week to week my business is very different and that’s the great thing about The Tribe. I can pick and choose when I want or need to come and having that flexibility really works well for me. You’re representing your business which gives you that professional edge, and it’s a nice place to be as well.”
Stacey adds: “Coworking has had a very difficult period in recent years, so joining a network of Work Hubs is really valuable because we’re all going through the same thing at the moment. We all face the same challenges, so being able to exchange knowledge and experience with other Work Hub owners in Devon can only help all of us.”
Flourish Paperworks may no longer be based at the Tavistock Enterprise Hub, but its time there proved to be an important chapter in its growth.
Jenny Adjene, Founder and Director at Flourish Paperworks, is celebrating ten years of her stationery, gifts, greetings card and printing business in Tavistock this year, having originally started the business from her home under the name of Hip Hip Hooray.
Today, it has an impressive shop in the town centre but the turning point for the business was around two years ago, while based at the Tavistock Enterprise Hub – which is one of 24 coworking spaces in the Devon Work Hubs network.
Jenny recalls: “We first moved to The Hub because it worked out more cost effective. We actually moved into one of the smallest rooms The Hub had but after about a year we went to their biggest room when that became available and that gave us the capacity to buy in more stock and take on a larger team.
Just having the flexibility to do that and not to have to think too much about the long term, because it’s month by month, it was a no-brainer at the time.”
However, just as the business started to grow, the lockdowns from the coronavirus pandemic put a stop to weddings and parties – having a direct impact on Jenny’s business, which at that stage was purely selling invitations for weddings and parties.
Jenny decided the time was right to set the business on its current path and help her achieve a long-held ambition of helping others by adopting social purpose in her business.
In becoming a social enterprise, Flourish Paperworks isn’t just producing illustrated papers goods and stationery; it’s also providing vital job opportunities for women.
“When Covid-19 hit, it was during that point when everything quietened down that I had a lot of time to think,” says Jenny.
“I had a bit of a lightbulb moment that we could turn the business into a social enterprise to create life-changing employment opportunities for women overcoming hardship, who could do with a fresh start or second chance.
The Enterprise Hub was amazing for us during that chapter and it enabled us to move here. Our intention now is to grow our social enterprise employment programme. It’s very much our mission and our plan.
We’ve offered lots of employment and work experience opportunities with incredible outcomes for women. We’re helping women on our programme to reach their potential, live a fulfilling life and contribute to their community, and we look forward to doing a lot more of that.”
The employment programme at Flourish Paperworks, which is entirely funded through the sales of its stationery, offers women paid employment where they prepare and pack stationery orders, develop customer service skills and experience the value of being in a supportive team.
Women on the programme can also work towards a qualification and can access life skills mentoring for a year. On completion of the programme and equipped with skills, experience and self-worth, they are then supported into long term employment or further education.
Rhiannon Spurgeon, Tavistock Enterprise Hub manager, says: “When Jenny took on the social enterprise element it was great to be able to see some of the women she is supporting and being able to watch them grow. There’s a teeny-tiny bit that The Hub played in that by being able to be flexible and be supportive. I’m hugely proud of that.
We’re here to support small businesses and we do everything we can to flex around their needs.
Whether you want to rent a desk by the day, or you want to rent an office by the month, it allows you to try working outside the home but without the huge commitment.
We offer flexibility and support at The Hub. You can make business connections, new client relationships, collaborations and sometimes having someone to bounce an idea off can be enough to help take your business in a new direction. The possibilities are endless.”
For local author and illustrator Samantha Williams, The Tribe Work Hub in Totnes has been a real-life fairy tale.
When she first went to the coworking space for female entrepreneurs, her intention was simply to finish the series of five books she had been working on. She has ended up achieving that and so much more.
Samantha started writing and illustrating several years ago while working in America. On her return to the UK, she began work on her initial set of books but had no idea what to do with them.
She said: “Although I had some books and ideas I didn’t have any business experience to take it anywhere or to publish them.
I really just wanted to finish a set of illustrations for a story, to re-illustrate a book I had already done. I needed time and space to do that – I was looking for a few hours a week to finish the personal project.
Once I came to The Tribe that’s when thing started to change. It was really apparent to me very quickly that there was so much more that I could gain from a coworking space like this.
The Tribe is so much more than a desk space. The energy, support and expertise that the community brings is not something you can do alone, and when you’re starting to build a business and trying to get something off the ground it’s so important to be surrounded by a tribe of people who support you in doing that, and that’s exactly what I found here.
The benefits I’ve gained from The Tribe are knowledge and expertise that I wouldn’t have been able to access working from home alone as I have been for the last few years.
Going through the business advice and help they’ve provided for me has allowed me to create a business from nothing. All of the dreams I had suddenly became very real and practical.”
The Tribe, which is part of the Devon Work Hubs network, has helped Sam open a new chapter on her career. She now has her own company, Littlestar Design Studio Ltd, self-publishing all five books which are available on Amazon.
As well as carrying out school talks and readings, she is updating her books and has been joined by two others to help support her work.
“The biggest help The Tribe has given me is the confidence to share my vision and my stories so that I could inspire other people to come and work with me on this and that’s exactly what’s happened,” adds Samantha.
“I’m working with two more people now with a wonderful community behind me, backing me. This journey has been fantastic so far and I hope it will continue to grow.”
The Tribe was established in Totnes by freelance writer and award-winning blogger Stacey Sheppard in January 2020.
Having been working at home, she wanted to set up a network for other women working from home alone. She admits it was difficult to close the doors of the business during the start of the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns so soon after opening.
Stacey said: “2020 was an extremely difficult year to open a business. At the time there were a lot of stories about the death of coworking but as things started getting back to normal it’s been heralded as a solution, and it’s become more popular again as many people have found that working from home full time perhaps isn’t the best solution for them.
Our USP is that we’re aimed at female entrepreneurs, specifically to help women start and grow their business.
After getting over all of the challenges of the pandemic, the last couple of years has been really positive and our community has flourished and grown. We’ve seen so many success stories where members have grown their business, made connections, built networks and driven their business forward.”
Samantha is among these success stories, and Stacey is proud of everything that Samantha has achieved since becoming part of the community at The Tribe.
She said: “When Sam first joined us, she was talking about how it was a dream of hers to start and grow a business, but she just wasn’t sure how she could go about it.
Since she’s been coming here, she’s met people who have helped her self-publish her books, write copy on her website, and helped her clarify what it is she wants to do with her business.
She has met all of the right people to help map out her business journey and the confidence I have seen grow in her is just immeasurable. It’s been an absolute pleasure to watch the journey she’s been on.
When I opened this coworking space, I wanted people to come in who wouldn’t necessarily normally come in contact with one another but have complementary skills to help one another in business.
So a large part of what I try to do as the founder of The Tribe is to help people make connections and encourage collaborations. I’m often able to help people find the right person they need to move their business forward.
There’s only so much one person can do, and no-one has all the skills they need to make their business thrive.
I’ve always believed we’re stronger together and when we work together, we can take things to the next level much quicker. Everyone knows something you don’t. You can tap into that knowledge and experience by coming into a work hub.”
Despite the national shortage of carers, domiciliary care provider Care With Kindness has bucked the trend and has managed to grow its team since it was founded two years ago.
It’s one of a number of businesses based at Devon Business & Education Centre near Payhembury in East Devon, which have set up and flourished as a direct result of the opening of the coworking space.
Care With Kindness set up with an original team of four, but it now employs 12 carers. While the majority of their time is spent on care visits, they also benefit from the facilities available at the Centre.
Sarah Carter, Registered Manager of Care With Kindness, says:
“Care With Kindness was born from the idea that there was a lack of consistency in good quality care in rural Devon. We wanted to create a care business that was about providing high quality care and not rushing from one door to the next.
We’ve found ourselves attracting a team of really good people who are focused on providing high quality care for people in the community.
Having the space available to us at Devon Business & Education Centre means that not only do we have a base, we have somewhere we can hold meetings and training days.
It’s a nice place for people to come together and it has a wonderful training space which is important with care work, especially as training is a critical part of providing great care. Face to face training really helps to embed some of the difficult things we have to learn, such as end of life care, and how to move a client correctly. We have the space and the facilities to be able to do that.
We cover a huge geographical area and journeys between care visits can be long, so you need dedicated staff who don’t mind going the extra mile.
We’re fortunate with the people we’ve found on our doorstep and we’re determined to keep looking for the right carers with the right qualities; empathy, compassion, kindness and concern for the ageing population in Devon.”
Devon Business & Education Centre has been part of the Devon Work Hubs network since December 2017.
It was opened earlier that year by business consultant Chris Lorimer and his wife Mary, who owned a tutoring company, after they replaced a dilapidated barn on their property with a modern, bright and energy-efficient business space. Initially they were looking to provide themselves with a space for their own business interests, but instead they created something that is so much more.
The passivhaus design and green roof of the centre ensures the building is highly sustainable and has a low ecological footprint.
Chris Lorimer, Owner of Devon Business & Education Centre, says: “We created this fantastic space which is beautiful to work in. It’s a light, quiet and relaxing space.
We knew from the market research we had done there was a need for this kind of space, but you never quite know what’s going to be required by people. We’re well located between Cullompton, Ottery St Mary and Honiton, and we have found that it’s a great place for anyone looking for a day away from the office, Board meetings and training days.
It’s been so popular we know we’ve hit on something which people really enjoy – they often rebook as soon as they can.
We want people to come here but we appreciate that we’re in a rural area and the world is facing climate emergency challenges, so our environmental credentials are important. That’s why the building is passivhaus. There’s electric vehicle charging as well and we’re strong on recycling.
The way people work now, they need to have a range of options of where to work and centres like ours are invaluable in providing a space with good broadband connectivity to allow people to do their work. Whether it’s online or face to face we’re providing an environment that’s very flexible and yet ultimately it’s a beautiful space that makes people feel happy and productive. We’d like to think that in a small way we’re helping them.
If I was to sum up the centre it would be open spaces for open minds. It allows people to get on with their work in a fantastic and refreshing environment.”
The centre is proving to be integral to the growth of a number of businesses.
“We’ve got a wide range of people who use the centre,” Chris continues. “Everyone from self-employed freelancers, people who want to hotdesk, those who just need a space for a day, businesses who come here for training or away days, and companies who use the space to grow their own business. A number of businesses have set up as a result of this place, such as Care With Kindness.
Due to having access to this amazing space, we’ve also been able to set up a charity, called Devon Business & Education Trust which supports people across East and Mid-Devon who are socially isolated. So for instance, its also a warm hub for local elderly people to spend time together, a safe space for young people needing educational support and a resource base for people looking to get back into the job market.
We’re so pleased this space has created opportunities for businesses and individuals to flourish and it gives us great pleasure to see it working.”
It certainly seems to be working for Care With Kindness and the location is key to that, according to Sarah.
She says: "It really feels like a unique workspace and I always enjoy coming to work here because not only is it a wonderful space but we have beautiful countryside all around us.
It’s quite a bustling centre with lots of people coming and going which reminds me every day of my professional context and why I’m here. The person in the office next door does something completely different but that makes it quite an exciting place to work.
I feel we belong here; this is our home and we’d like to grow from here.”
"A fabulously stylish space which smacks of contemporary creative muses, coupled with all the comforts an office should have - coffee, tea, fridge, WiFi and a working printer. Its a warm, light space in a delightful part of the village with plenty of space in the car parks and very easy to travel to."